A Bishop from Pakistan has called on his country’s government to catch the killers of Christian human rights campaigner Shahbaz Bhatti. Bishop Sebastian Shaw, Apostolic Administrator of Lahore, told Aid to the Church in Need that almost two years on no one had been tried for his murder – and gave his blessing to a 2 March event in London commemorating Mr Bhatti’s life and work.
Bishop Shaw said: “Nothing has happened yet, but we ask the government of Pakistan that the killers be arrested and brought to justice.”
Mr Bhatti, federal minister for minority affairs, was murdered in Islamabad on 2 March 2011 after calling for clemency for Asia Bibi, the first woman to be sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws.
Abid Malik, who was arrested on suspicion of Mr Bhatti’s murder, was cleared of the charge in February 2012.
Bishop Shaw said that a few months ago the press in Pakistan suggested his killer may have been from outside the country. He added: “We are very sad for what has happened to Shahbaz Bhatti, who was martyred. At the same time I request that all people should pray and have respect for human dignity, because God has made us to praise him through our prayer and the belief we have in him, the one God.”
Bishop Shaw gave his encouragement to people to attend the multi-faith event on Saturday 2 March, remembering Shahbaz Bhatti and calling for an end to the suffering caused by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The day’s events will begin with an inter-denominational Christian service at 11am outside the Pakistan High Commission in Knightsbridge.
This will be followed by the presentation of a petition to Downing Street and the day concludes with an inter-faith peace concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.
Bishop Shaw said: “I encourage all people who are participating in the march to continue to support people who stand for their faith and at the same time are influenced by their faith they work for building of a society where people live in peace and harmony.”
Bishop Shaw’s plea for Mr Bhatti’s killers to be caught was echoed by Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Mr Chowdhry said: “We have to make sure that our main focus is justice. Those who killed Shahbaz have not been brought to justice.”
Mr Chowdhry added: “The Pakistan government has a lot to answer for. The fact that the killers have so far escaped justice is a blight on Pakistan.
“We should highlight the need that something needs to be done.”
Mr Chowdhry will be one of the speakers on 2 March – along with Aid to the Church in Need (UK)’s John Pontifex, who has travelled widely in Pakistan seeing first hand the problems faced by the country’s Christians.
Speakers from non-Christian organisations include Upkar Rai of the British Sikh Council, Ranbir Singh of the Hindu Human Rights Group and Imam Dr Hargey of the Oxford Islamic Congregation.
The events on Saturday, 2 March begin with a one-hour inter-denominational service at 11am outside the UK High Commission for Pakistan, Lowndes Square, London SW1X 9JN. The day’s final event is an inter-faith peace concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.
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